So the Los Angeles Lakers continue their horror show on the road. They hope they can snap their four-game slide on Tuesday night. The problem is that while the team’s record doesn’t look great on the surface, this squad has actually been very hot over the last three weeks.
While the Orlando Magic (13-21) don’t have a better record than the Los Angeles Lakers (13-20), these teams are going in opposite directions. The Magic started out 5-20 and, in fact, they had a terrible losing streak that extended to 9 games. However, the Magic have recovered to win 8 of 9 games. They’re currently one of the hottest teams in the league.
It’s not like the schedule was powder puff; the Orlando Magic beat the Clippers, the Raptors twice, and won at Boston twice. And their only loss in this stretch was by a single point against Atlanta, a team that they also beat in that span.
This team is extremely young; all but two players on their roster are 25 and younger (the elder statesmen being Terrence Ross and Gary Harris, who just returned but is having an injury-plagued season). But the Magic may have found their franchise player in Paolo Banchero, the #1 overall pick in last summer’s draft. Banchero is averaging 21.7 points, 6.9 boards, and 4.0 dimes per game. He has the makings to be a devastating NBA star and he seems to be already getting the respect of the officials. Paolo is in the Top 10 in free throw attempts per game.
The Magic also have Franz Wagner, who is second in scoring at 19.8 points per. He has been a model of consistency for Orlando. Big man Wendell Carter, Jr. has seemingly found a home with the Magic. He also came back from injury last Friday and is working his way back (honestly, this is a great game for him to really get it going). Cole Anthony has been a fantastic sparkplug off the bench. Bol Bol is showing everybody why he was such a curiosity a couple of years ago with his unicorn skills on display.
I’m really rooting for Markelle Fultz. He has been great at setting the table for the Magic. And Laker fans would be glad to know that another Laker exile is having a career year. Franz Wagner’s older brother, Mo Wagner, is averaging 12.8 points and 6.9 boards this season.
Unfortunately, Jalen Suggs has been out with an ankle injury for the last month or so. But it just shows the deep pool of young talent the Magic have. Give them a couple of years and a couple of battle-tested veterans to help them out and it looks very promising for the Orlando Magic.
As for the Lakers? I don’t know what we’re going to get. The Lakers can’t seem to get anything done when an engaged LeBron James isn’t on the court. And simply put, it’s hard to feel confident about the Lakers’ chances when they don’t have their fail-safe in Anthony Davis. And would you really want to put a 4-guard line-up against a team that boasts 6’10” Banchero, 6’9″ Franz Wagner, 6’11” Mo Wagner, 6’10” Carter, 7′ Mo Bamba, and 7’2″ Bol Bol?!
Still, it’s not like the Lakers can’t win this game. Remember that Orlando is still a very young team and they are susceptible to some foolish plays on the court. Not that the Lakers aren’t capable of incompetence on the court (of course, they are) but they do have veterans like James and Russell Westbrook. You just hope their worst selves don’t come out on Tuesday night.
Orlando has been 5th in offensive rating and 6th in defense during this 8-1 stretch. Like I said, they’re one of the best teams in the league in the last three weeks. The Lakers should treat them as such instead of dismissing them like they did against the Hornets.
This will be quite the game. Hopefully, the Lakers wake up after that Christmas loss to Dallas. They’re lucky that the Western Conference is scrunched up this season but they also should start getting wins because the season can flash right by.
Now is a good time to get it going.